Can the West Help the Rest? A Review Essay of Sachs' the End of Poverty and Easterly's the White Man's Burden

By John, Arielle; Storr, Virgil Henry | Journal of Private Enterprise, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Can the West Help the Rest? A Review Essay of Sachs' the End of Poverty and Easterly's the White Man's Burden


John, Arielle, Storr, Virgil Henry, Journal of Private Enterprise


Abstract

The rival opinions expressed by Jeffrey Sachs in his book The End of Poverty and by William Easterly in The White Man's Burden epitomize the dichotomy in the economics literature regarding the role of foreign aid in eliminating extreme poverty. On the one hand, the majority of governments see aid as a solution to ending poverty in developing countries. On the other hand, a growing body of research rejects the simple notion that aid leads to growth. This paper explores both Sachs' and Easterly's conclusions as a way of framing the contemporary debate on foreign aid and its role in alleviating poverty. Although The End of Poverty and The White Man's Burden raise interesting questions about the West's obligation to the Rest, there are problems with both of their analyses of past aid efforts and with the policy prescriptions that they advocate. Given the failure of decades of aid efforts, and recent studies demonstrating that foreign aid can actually retard economic growth in recipient countries, there is reason to be skeptical that we in the West can do much to help those in the Rest..

JEL Codes: F350, I300, O190

Keywords: Foreign aid; Poverty; Developing countries; Sachs; Easterly

I. Introduction

Most of the world was poor two hundred and fifty years ago. Moreover, the difference between the richest and the poorest was quite small. Since then, however, much of the world has climbed out of poverty by embracing property rights and enforcing contracts. Still, about one sixth of the world's population is unable to meet their basic needs. Can people in the richest countries do anything to help those in the poorest nations?

Although many in rich countries understandably made it their duty to find solutions to developing world poverty given the widening disparity in the economic fortunes of the West and the Rest, foreign aid has not proven to be the panacea that some envisaged it would be. On the contrary, studies demonstrate repeatedly that the effect of foreign aid is to erode democratic institutions, encourage rent-seeking, increase corruption, and ultimately retard economic growth in aid-recipient countries. Osborne (2002), for instance, specifically evaluates the relationship between past aid efforts and economic growth in developing countries and concludes that aid has had a negative effect on growth. Similarly, Burnside and Dollar (2000) find that foreign aid simply does not affect economic growth in the donor country. Although they insist that "making aid more systematically conditional on the quality of policies would likely increase its impact on developing country growth," they admit that there is "no significant tendency for total aid or bilateral aid to favor good policy" (2000, p.864).

Furthermore, to combat to the popular ideas that shape the political reality of aid giving, economists such as Svensson (2000), Villanger (2004), Knack (2001), Alesina and Weder (2002) and Leeson (2008) illuminate the incentive systems that render foreign aid an ineffective strategy for promoting growth. Knack (2001), for instance, found that aid reduces the recipient government's accountability to its citizens since revenues for aid- financed projects are not dependent upon taxation. Furthermore, citizens begin to compete for government positions and the rents made possible by the influx of foreign aid, which not only has the effect of "siphoning away scarce talent from the civil service" (Knack, 2001, p. 31 3), but can also "increase political instability, by making control of the government a more valuable prize" (p. 312). Knack (p. 312) also argues that attempts by donor countries to tie aid to good governance have proven largely "ineffective." Similarly, as Alesina and Weder (2002, p.l 136) describe, while "Scandinavian donors (the most generous in per capita terms) do reward less corrupt receivers... the United States appears to favor democracies, but seems to pay no attention to the quality of governments of receiving countries. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Can the West Help the Rest? A Review Essay of Sachs' the End of Poverty and Easterly's the White Man's Burden
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.